Heaven knows where you go looking for positives when it comes to Rory McIlroy’s fifth attempt to win the career Grand Slam.
So totally out of sorts was he for much of the third round of the 83rd Masters that for anyone who loves the game it simply became sad to watch.
Needing a big round to force his way back into the tournament, the 29-year-old Northern Irishman went the other way over the course of a front nine completed in 38 indifferent shots.
Rory McIlroy’s fifth attempt to win the career Grand Slam is already over at Augusta
If truth be told, he has looked a pale shadow of the imperious golfer we have seen all season from the moment he stepped on to the first tee for the opening round here and missed the fairway by a country mile.
Only when his challenge was effectively all over did we get fragments of the Rory who came here with such high hopes, as he eagled the 15th and birdied the 16th.
It was too late, alas, to leave him playing for anything other than pride, as a 71 left him in a tie for 39th when he completed his round.
How on earth did it end up like this, given his lofty ambitions and fabulous form?
There’s no pleasure in drawing the obvious conclusion that this pursuit has mentally become too big for him to handle.
The Northern Irishman needed a big third round but failed to deliver on the big stage
The meditation, the juggling skills, the performance guru and the self-help manuals were all designed to take the pressure away when the gun went off on Thursday.
Credit him, if you like, for putting in all the work to try to solve the puzzle.
It is clearly not easy, however, to fool the intelligent mind of a complete golf geek who knows all too well what it would mean to win all four majors.
The brutal truth is that this fifth attempt was the biggest failure of all. At least last year he got to the final round before struggling to perform.
McIlroy, it should be said, is not alone among the leading lights in struggling to cope with expectation.
How else do you explain the missed halfway cut of world No 1 Justin Rose in the Masters tournament where he has come so close so often and is desperate to win? Or the embarrassing 81 that highly fancied Paul Casey shot in the first round?
It is just that McIlroy operates on an entirely different level, of course, with the litany of successes to his name. Or is supposed to do so.
Watching him on Saturday, you had to struggle to remember that the verdict of many this time last week was that McIlroy was in the form of his life.
It was an opinion given plenty of substance by his victory in the Players Championship and